- Smalltown Supersound
Listen to the track below
“Gestures” [ft. Arve Henriksen]
Carmen Villain has traveled a long way in the past nine years. The skeletal indie rock of the Norwegian Mexican musician’s 2013 debut, Sleeper, suggested an artist possessing Cat Power’s ear for brooding melody and Royal Trux’s penchant for fuzz, along with a hint of Lindstrøm’s dub-disco knob-twiddling. She refined both her singer-songwriter instincts and atmospheric touch on 2017’s Infinite Avenue, but 2019’s all-instrumental Both Lines Will Be Blue was an ethereal post-rock record, and this year’s Sketch for Winter IX: Perlita, for Geographic North, dissolved even further into ambience. She even recently turned up for a collaboration with UK bass musician Parris, underscoring just how far her range extends.
On “Gestures,” the lead track from Villain’s forthcoming Only Love From Now On, she returns to the searching ambient frequencies of Sketch for Winter. Against reverberant percussion, she lays down a hypnotic groove, then pours aquatic tones over the top. Taut ornamental figures evoke North African reeds; flickering electronics suggest the presence of UFOs. The lead role falls to Supersilent’s Arve Henriksen, whose horn is treated much the way the late Jon Hassell often was, digitally harmonized and smeared on in thick, iridescent layers. It’s a sour, silty sound.
The title references Hannah Wilke’s 1974 video-art piece Gestures, an eerie, uncomfortable work exploring the underlying violence of the male gaze. Listen to Villain’s song while watching the video, and the swirling horn lines take on a physical quality—caressing, squeezing, prodding, slapping. Knowing the inspiration behind the song only accentuates the ominous undertones of its murky swirls. Villain’s refusal of clarity feels like a protective strategy: In obfuscation lies resistance.